I’m a huge fan of Brene Brown and her work in the personal development space. For those that aren’t familiar with her work, Brene is an American scholar, author, and public speaker, who is currently a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work.
She’s come to prominence with her work on vulnerability, shame and worthiness. Basically, she talks about the kinds of topics that make us shift a little in our seats. The stuff we don’t really like to talk about in public. Don’t expect to hear about rainbows and unicorns when Brene is around.
If you haven’t seen it already, take a look at her seminal TED talk on the power of vulnerability (Brene’s TED talk) which has had more than 26 million viewings. Not bad going for such a weighty and uncomfortable topic, eh?
But it was her TED talk on ‘shame‘ that really got me thinking. Shame is one of those silent assailants that no one likes to talk about. Its power can be insidious and crippling. It has no respect for age, creed, social status or upbringing. We all experience it. It’s called “being human”.
Shame focuses on “I’m not very good” as opposed to “it’s not very good”. There’s a subtle but powerful difference. One’s about your ability, the other is about your worth.
Shame and your money
So imagine how the heady mix of shame and money plays out.
How many people out there keep their huge debts secret from their friends, partners and families? Maybe someone you’re sitting directly opposite right now is doing the exact same thing. And it never even crossed your mind.
Or maybe it’s you. And the person opposite you hasn’t got the slightest idea of the hoops you have to jump through to maintain the pretence of financial solvency, liquidity or being flush with cash.
Why don’t you tell them? Shame. Why don’t they tell you? Shame.
Is your situation going to get better if you keep it to yourself? Possibly. Possibly not.
But you know all that stuff you read about authenticity, being the “real you”, being the best version of yourself and so on? Well, this is where your version of that is put to the test.
Authenticity is meant to be “warts and all”. The real you, not the show reel of you. Not the one you project to get “likes”. The real you. So that includes your shadow – that version of you that you don’t want to acknowledge. It’s still part of you but isn’t the part that shows up on Instagram.
And before I spiral too far down into the rabbit warren of authenticity, you may be wondering what this has to do with you and your money.
Or maybe you are very aware of what it might mean to you but would rather not think about it.
The truth is, sometimes we’ve got to simply stand up and be counted. We all get what we tolerate. “Fess up,” as a friend used to say (that is, confess and take responsibility).
We all have money secrets in some shape of form. Some we (quite rightly) keep to ourselves because, quite frankly, your tennis partner or doorman doesn’t really need to know how much you get paid.
But some secrets are simply a reflection of another story – bad financial habits, naivety, misuse, a lack of understanding.
Don’t live in denial
We don’t need to go out shouting about them from the rooftops either. But neither should we be denying them…which brings us back full circle to the concept of shame.
You’re allowed to make mistakes, you’re allowed to be wrong, you’re allowed to waste all your money at slot machines, you’re allowed to stick your money in a dead cert double-your-money investment that goes bust, you’re allowed to be that fool that was parted from their money, you’re allowed to stick all your money under your bed only for the moths to go all “fine dining” on it.
Basically, you’re allowed to be so really, really stupid with your money. Don’t try to be or project perfection – it’s a waste of time. You’re allowed to muck things up.
Just don’t deny, ignore or pretend it didn’t happen. Because it did.
Awareness and acceptance are at the beginning of any money journey. Don’t let shame stop you from getting to the start line.